The Consolations of Philosophy

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The Consolations of Philosophy (ISBN 0-140-27661-0) is a nonfiction book by Alain de Botton. First published by Hamish Hamilton in 2000, subsequent publications (2001 onwards) have been by Penguin Books.[citation needed]


The title of the book is a reference to Boethius's magnum opus Consolation of Philosophy, in which philosophy appears as an allegorical figure to Boethius to console him in the year he was imprisoned, leading up to his impending execution.[citation needed]

In Consolations, de Botton attempts to console the reader through everyday problems (or at least help them to understand them) by extensively quoting and interpreting a number of philosophers. These are categorised in a number of chapters with one philosopher used in each.[citation needed]

Critical response[edit]

The critical reception for Consolations has been primarily positive. It received glowing praise in, among other publications, The New York Review of Books, The Times, The Spectator, The Sunday Telegraph, The Sunday Times, The Irish Times, The Literary Review, and The Mail on Sunday.[1]

A few critics have been negative. Edward Skidelsky of the New Statesman wrote: "Comforting, but meaningless. In seeking to popularise philosophy, Alain de Botton has merely trivialised it, smoothing the discipline into a series of silly sound bites. ... [De Botton's The Consolations of Philosophy] is bad because the conception of philosophy that it promotes is a decadent one, and can only mislead readers as to the true nature of the discipline."[2]

Jonathan Lear, writing in the New York Times said: "Academic philosophy in the United States has virtually abandoned the attempt to speak to the culture at large, but philosophy professors are doing something of incredible importance: they are trying to get things right. That is the thread that connects them back to Socrates -- even if they are not willing to follow him into the marketplace -- and that is the thread that The Consolations of Philosophy cuts. ...[L]et's face it, this isn't philosophy."[3]

Mary Margaret McCabe stated in the Times Literary Supplement: "In the culture of the market economy, we miss the fact that philosophy is valuable in and by itself.... It is deeply dispiriting, then, that the latest attempt to popularize philosophy [De Botton's The Consolations of Philosophy] - that is to say, to make philosophy into televisual fodder - does so precisely on the basis that philosophers can provide us with useful tips.... This is not the dumbing down of philosophy, it is a dumbing out. Nothing in this travesty deserves its title; Boethius must be turning in his grave."[4]

Television adaptation[edit]

The book was the inspiration for the Channel 4 TV series Philosophy: A Guide To Happiness. The series was produced mirroring the book's layout with the following six episodes:[citation needed]

  1. Socrates on Self-Confidence
  2. Epicurus on Happiness
  3. Seneca on Anger
  4. Montaigne on Self-Esteem
  5. Schopenhauer on Love
  6. Nietzsche on Hardship

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Consolations of Philosophy - Reviews. Retrieved from
  2. ^ Skidelsky, Edward (2000-03-27). "Comforting, but meaningless." New Statesman, 27 March 2000. Retrieved from
  3. ^ Lear, Jonathan (2000-05-14). "The Socratic Method". New York Times, 14 May 2000. Retrieved from
  4. ^ McCabe, Mary Margaret (2000-06-23). "Who wants to be a millionaire?" Times Literary Supplement, 23 June 2000. Retrieved from


  • de Botton, Alain (2000-03-28). The Consolations of Philosophy. Hamish Hamilton; First Edition (28 Mar 2000); ISBN 0241140099; ISBN 978-0241140093; LC call # BJ1595.5 .D43 2000.